Worry of thriller illness retains individuals away from shopping for fruits, greens

Naveen S Garewal 

Tribune News Service 

Hyderabad, December 13 

Fear of the mystery disease in Eluru continues to spread panic and fear in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh with the health authorities failing to pin-point the cause so far.

There has been a steep fall in sale of fruit and vegetables for the past week as locals suspect these may be infected and could further spread of the disease that shows symptoms of epilepsy and fainting. 

The main opposition party Telugu Desam party (TDP) has meanwhile strengthened its tirade against the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) for its alleged “failure” to explain to the people what was happening. The former chief minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu has asked the government to act responsibly and come out with facts to remove the fears of the people. 

Symptoms of the mysterious illness include three to five minutes of epileptic fits without repetition, forgetfulness, anxiety, vomiting, headache and back pain. 

For the past four to five days, leafy vegetables and fruits have seen no buyers and people are just staying away from vendors and vegetable shops and markets out of fear. Since a lot of talk is about spray or water being the culprit behind the Eluru disease, people are not ready to take a chance by eating vegetables and fruits.  

Several organisations have taken blood samples and spinal fluids from the patients, besides they have also taken samples of vegetables, rice, fish, meat and soil to ascertain the reason behind the mystery disease. So far, no conclusive results have been announced, though the government feels that the disease could have been caused by chemicals used in spray as insecticide to kill mosquitoes. 

Dr AVR Mohan, the Superintendent of West Godavari district hospital, said people in Eluru have been advised to wash the vegetables thoroughly with salt water before use. He said about 14 agencies were looking into the samples collected so far. He said the Union Ministry of Health and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi were also trying to find the cause of the disease and to check presence of organochlorine and organophosphates in the blood of the affected people. 

As of now the blood samples have shown presence of lead and nickel only in two of the 40 urine samples collected, while the National Institute of Nutrition found traces of mercury in rice and pesticides and herbicide residues in excess quantities in vegetables. 

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